The last week has been filled with a lot of website design work and it got us thinking on the best platforms and structures for different types of small businesses and thought we would share some of our research with you.
First up, which platform do you choose?
This is such a tough choice with so many website platforms out there, as a small business the choice can be a bit overwhelming, having done a lot of research into this for different requirements the top choices in our opinion are:
This is a big daddy ecommerce site, much more expensive than its competitors but offers the longevity and size to cope with a growing business, if you are serious about your online store and possibly have played around with Shopify/Wordpress before and are now ready to increase your product range this is the one for you.
100s of creatively aesthetic off-the-shelf templates to choose from to make your store look great, although beware you may end up looking like everybody else so it is good to get a designer to create a customised bespoke template just for you. Simple to use and offers plug in solutions to cope with a lot of extras you might need, this is good to set up a small shop with, the blog is a bit basic though and Shopify need to get this up to par. Shopify also has everything included in one price so you are ready to go.
If you already have a Wordpress site and are making the jump to a store this could be a good option for you, as it takes the design theme of your existing Wordpress site. Great SEO options and a really simple platform to use, particularly if you have already used Wordpress. The pricing of WooCommerce is not as straight-forward as Shopify, in that you have to purchase the setting up separately (hosting, domain etc.)
For a comparison of all the features that come with Woocommerce compared to Shopify this is a great article to read - http://ecommerce-platforms.com/compare/shopify-vs-woocommerce-comparison
If you are just wanting a ‘portfolio’ website, i.e. you are not selling any products, there are a couple of other choices. The most obvious is;
Wordpress. This is the most widely used as the themes are open source – which means that lots of people can edit and customise to create a unique style for your website. However, its is not a ‘drag-and-drop’ website, which means if you want to add a video and your template isn’t set out to have a video you will need to edit the code to do this – so you will have to go back to your developer to request this. There are loads of plug-ins and resources available to help you customise to what you need, but if there are upgrades to the platform bear in mind this will affect your plug-ins and some may not update in line, this could lead to added expense later to revise your website. The cost of building a Wordpress site is relatively low, but remember all the add-ons – hosting, custom templates and additional plug-ins, this means it can work out more expensive than the standard Weebly plan.
www.weebly.comThis platform uses the drag-and-drop functionality which makes it the most easy to use website builder on the market right now. It is our preferred choice for simple websites for small businesses as it means you can hold the reins after its gone live and upload video, edit text, change images quite easily yourself. It has hundreds of templates to choose from but is a little less flexible than Wordpress regarding editing the style, and its very much more of a ‘closed network’ what you see is what you get. The pricing is based on different tiers, and the plan you choose will include certain functionality indicative of the monthly fee.
The Wix platform is also drag-and-drop but has around 500 templates to choose from, and some really nice designs set up for certain businesses. Their templates are pre-populated so you just switch out their content for yours, although bear in mind if you change your mind and wish to change the template you will lose your content and will have to start over!
You can drag and drop literally anywhere on the site, unlike Weebly which forces you to drag and drop in certain areas. If you choose the lowest fee plan with Wix you will see their ad in a visible place at the top of your website, to avoid this you have to upgrade the plan so it can work out a bit more expensive than Weebly.
Next consider your brand plan.
Whenever we get a potential client approach us asking for a new website, we always say, we won’t be the cheapest but you will have better results for longer if you go with us, as we always do the hard work first.
You need to put together a marketing strategy before you do your website, not after. The strategy will tell you important stuff like, what your objectives are, what your values are, who your target audience is, what your competition looks like and how you are going to meet those objectives. Having this knowledge will assist you to put a website together that delivers – making it clear who you are, what you are offering your potential customer and why that is so much better than your competition.
Then think about your brand identity, if you don’t have a logo this should be designed along with some brand guidance such as colours, fonts, image style. Again, do that before you design the website.
Then get your images together. A website is only as good as the images you put in it so consider spending some budget on professional photography to start you off. But then you can probably start to do some yourself. We interviewed, Jon Holloway at Dyslexic Photographer who runs private, tailored photography tuition for start-ups and small businesses, to get his top tips on doing your own photography in-house
4. Framing - do you need to get closer or further away? Up or down? Around to the side a bit? Your feet are an incredibly effective zoom, use them.
5. Accessories - A large bit of white card can work wonders for reflecting light.
6. Think of a photo like the copy on your website. You wouldn't write a sentence once and think that’s the final thing. You need to keep working at it until it is right. Only then will it get better.
Once you have your images, you will start to see your brand really coming together and you are now ready to start designing your website. Start with thinking about your consumer journey and how your site should be structured, it needs to be simple and easy to navigate with a few key features. Avoid too much clutter, people need to get to what they want quickly and easily.
If you have an ecommerce store, get them to feel part of your brand lifestyle through the images and language you use. Video can really help engagement, with over 80% of customers more likely to convert after they watch a video on a landing page. You want them to spend time on your site looking at your products and offer them options they may not have considered to up-sell or cross-sell products, and then the important part is that they can navigate effortlessly to basket and through the checkout process in a few simple steps.
If you have a portfolio site, consider what your target audience mindset is when they land on your site. By that I mean, if you are an electrician they will need the contact number bold and easy to get to and be able to click from their mobile to call you. They may like to see pricing clear and simple before they call too. If you are an interior designer they will want to see a large gallery of images showcasing your work and drawing them in to entice them on what you have to offer and how you can help, you may want to drive them to sign up to your newsletter to capture interested clients and target them through your email marketing.
Key features to consider:
There is lots to consider when creating a website and this is only the very start, designing a website is a very important step for you and your business and must be well-considered, it is your public face to the world and needs to represent you in the best possible way. If you want to get in touch to discuss designing your website we always love to have a chat about a new business, just give us a call.
If you want to know more about Jon’s photography workshops to achieve your goals, from lighting your products to camera and equipment advice. You can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to dyslexicphotographer.com